Volume 569, September 2014
|Number of page(s)||11|
|Published online||29 September 2014|
Radio emissions from pulsar companions: a refutable explanation for galactic transients and fast radio bursts
1 LUTH, Observatoire de Paris, CNRS, Université Paris Diderot, 5 place Jules Janssen, 92190 Meudon, France
2 LESIA, Observatoire de Paris, CNRS, UPMC, Université Paris Diderot, 5 place Jules Janssen, 92190 Meudon, France
Received: 30 April 2014
Accepted: 28 July 2014
Context. The six known highly dispersed fast radio bursts are attributed to extragalactic radio sources that are of unknown origin but extremely energetic. We propose here a new explanation that does not require an extreme release of energy and involves a body (planet, asteroid, white dwarf) orbiting an extragalactic pulsar.
Aims. We investigate a theory of radio waves associated with such pulsar-orbiting bodies. We focus our analysis on the waves emitted from the magnetic wake of the body in the pulsar wind. After deriving their properties, we compare them with the observations of various transient radio signals to determine whether they could originate from pulsar-orbiting bodies.
Methods. The analysis is based on the theory of Alfvén wings: for a body immersed in a pulsar wind, a system of two stationary Alfvén waves is attached to the body, provided that the wind is highly magnetised. When they are destabilised through plasma instabilities, Alfvén wings can be the locus of strong radio sources that are convected with the pulsar wind. By assuming a cyclotron maser instability operating in the Alfvén wings, we make predictions about the shape, frequencies, and brightness of the resulting radio emissions.
Results. Because of the beaming by relativistic aberration, the signal is seen only when the companion is perfectly aligned between its parent pulsar and the observer, as is the case for occultations. For pulsar winds with a high Lorentz factor (≥104), the whole duration of the radio event does not exceed a few seconds, and it is composed of one to four peaks that last a few milliseconds each and are detectable up to distances of several Mpc. The Lorimer burst, the three isolated pulses of PSR J1928+15, and the recently detected fast radio bursts are all compatible with our model. According to it, these transient signals should repeat periodically with the companion’s orbital period.
Conclusions. The search of pulsar-orbiting bodies could be an exploration theme for new- or next-generation radio telescopes.
Key words: pulsars: general / radiation mechanisms: non-thermal / relativistic processes / minor planets, asteroids: general / planet-star interactions
© ESO, 2014
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